Plaisir de Merle Merlot is made from 100% Merlot at this historic South African winery. The original farm was established by the French Huguenots in 1693 on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains between Paarl and Franschhoek. Today it is owned by the South African drinks company Distell, owners of Nederburg and Alto Estate amongst others (they recently purchased the Tobermory, Deanston and Bruichladdich distilleries in Scotland).
Plaisir de Merle is Distell’s showpiece winery and the 974 hectare estate in Simondium, Paarl, has earned international acclaim for its white and red wines. Winemaker since 1993 has been Niel Bester, who attributes the benefits of working with great fruit coming from a very unique terrain and the invaluable input from his viticulture team. A particular high-point early in his winemaking career was working a harvest at Château Mârgaux in Bordeaux under the seminal influence of Dr Paul Pontallier. Dr Pontallier continued to consult with Plaisir de Merle for over a decade, visiting South Africa at least once a year to taste and blend with Niel. Today the vineyards consist of around 400 hectares planted with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Malbec, although only about 80 hectares are used for Plaisir de Merle wines.
The grapes for Plaisir de Merle Merlot are hand-harvested from 2 vineyards located between 140m and 370m above sea level on the south-eastern slopes of the Simonsberg. Well-drained weathered granite soils (predominantly Tukulu and Hutton) with good water retention allow minimal interference in irrigation with most vineyards being dry land. The grapes were fermented in stainless steel vats with a daily pumping over. Upon completion of fermentation the wine was left on the skins for about 10 to macerate. The wine was racked off and malolactic fermentation was completed in the tanks and barrels. Plaisir de Merle Merlot is matured in 25% new, 50% second-fill and 25% third-fill French oak barrels for periods ranging from 14 to 18 months. Finally all the individual barrels were tasted and evaluated to select the final blend.